[REVIEW] Black Vans, by Alex Smith and James Dillenbeck

There are two comic books laying on a multicolored confetti rug--Black Vans issue 1&2. The covers depict Bo, a chubby Black superhero''s helper in techie combat gear, in various action poses.

(Buy this directly from the artist’s NSFW website here.)

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out what I should tell you first about this cool, colorful indie comic.

Maybe it’s that these are INDIE-indie books. I literally bought them out of a backpack in a nightclub. It was the writer’s backpack, but still…

Maybe I should start by describing the main character Bo, a chubby gay Afro-Mexican hacker who spends his days providing intel for superheroes out of the back of an (oddly never pictured) black van. Bo isn’t the sidekick–he’s the main character. He’s sexy and vulnerable and flawed and bad-ass just like any other comic hero, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen anybody like him driving a series. In these first two issues, he’s mostly trying to figure out what’s happening, and I wouldn’t mind following his story further once he does.

Maybe I should talk about the setting of the comics and how wonderfully weird it is. The Black Vans world draws from cyberpunk, solarpunk, tech noir, progressive politics and queer club kid culture(is it still called that?), mixing them all into a delightful American champloo.

Or maybe I should tell you that I live in a carefully constructed nurturing bubble of my own design, where everyone is welcome as long as they are boldly, emphatically themselves and allow others the grace to be so. In that bubble, I sometimes forget what the world outside is really like, and reminders can be harsh. The latest was this weekend’s shooting at a gay club in my home state. When things like this happen, we grieve, we console, we rage, and we build and rebuild.

It’s books like this that can inspire us to do all of that, reminding me, at least, that others are out there building their own bubbles of hope, vision and inclusion, and that if we all build them big enough, eventually they’ll merge and true evils will have no space to breathe.

It’s a good comic: original, action-packed, and filled with folk who are unusual in books but totally normal in many of our real lives.

An order of bao to go and a superhero battle-cry to Black Vans.

(Beautiful people! Remember, these are extremely indie comics, so you can’t purchase them anywhere but the artist’s shop right now. However, if you want to support this blog–i.e., me and my reading habit–consider taking a look at the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Anything you purchase there will earn a commission. Peace!)

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